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Renovations for senior safety


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Investing in a medical alert system and making phones available in commonly used rooms are some of the things that can be done to prepare a senior's home in case of a medical emergency.

As adults approach their golden years, the homes they once thought of as sanctuaries can become unsafe. Families wrestle with the decision to keep parents and grandparents in their homes or move them into assisted living facilities or other senior residences.

Modifying seniors' homes to make them safer is another option. The National Institute on Aging says that families may be able to have a senior stay at home by helping older relatives remain independent but safe.

A few modifications can make it possible for seniors to live comfortably in their homes for many years.

The following are a few ways to do just that.

Install ramps and nonslip flooring. Ramps can make it easier to reach the front door or cross over elevated doorway thresholds. Nonslip flooring also can prevent falls around the house, offering more traction for feet, walkers or canes.

Simple ramp sheets are available at local hardware stores, said Brent Emory of E&E Lumber in Marysville.

Although you can make a do-it-yourself ramp, the sheets make it simple for a lot of people.

"It's all personal preference. Some people are going to want to do it differently," he said. Emory recommends ramps be at least 4 feet wide.

A skid guard texture, which often comes on the ramps, also helps seniors, he said. "It makes it so you're not going to slip, or if you're on a wheelchair it's easier to roll up," he said.

Repair cracks in walkways and driveways. Safety should also extend to the outdoors. Be sure to repair cracks or uneven pavement.

There is another simple use hardware purchase to repair pavement, said Emory.

"The thing you can do is pour some self-leveling concrete. It will self-level and take out any imperfections in the concrete," he said.

Replace loose patio blocks or bricks with a more stable design or with concrete or asphalt. While outdoors, trim back bushes and make sure there are no tripping hazards outside as well.

Remove fall hazards. The NIA reports that six out of 10 falls happen at home, where people spend the most time and fail to think about their safety. Seniors who want to be independent may overestimate their physical abilities.

Because falls can be so dangerous, leading to cuts, abrasions, broken bones, and more, seniors and their families must take steps to prevent falls in homes. Improve lighting, especially at night when sight may become diminished.

Install hand rails and grab bars where possible. Pick up clutter and remove tripping hazards, such as slippery rugs or electric cords. Install an electric stair-climbing seat to make traversing stairs less risky.

Improve visibility and ability to communicate. Vision loss may accompany aging, but technology can help mitigate such losses. Use big-button phones, remote controls and even keyboards so seniors can keep in touch. Voice-activated thermostats or smart-home technology also can make it easier for seniors to voice their needs.

Modify fixtures and other features. Dexterity may wane with age, and arthritis can make grasping or turning doorknobs and faucets more challenging. Take inventory of areas of the home that present the biggest obstacles to seniors. Replace knobs in the shower or on faucets with lever handles, which are easier to maneuver.

Install new cabinets and doors that freely glide open and self-close. Replace toggle light switches with easier paddle-type switches that can be pushed with a hand or even arm. Motion-sensor lights also can be handy. Push-button oven controls may make cooking easier.

Prepare for medical emergencies. Invest in medical alert systems, such as necklaces or bracelets, that can be used to contact police or emergency medical personnel directly. Make phones available in commonly used rooms in the home, such as bedrooms, the living room, bathrooms, and the kitchen.


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